Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Digital Transformation: A CXO's Guide

Social media accelerates business growth and relevance

The most powerful tool for digital marketers is social media. Strong, growing brands use social media to drive all parts of a growing business: Sales, marketing, customer service, and e-commerce.

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Fifty percent of consumers have increased their social media usage in the past six months, and seven out of 10 Americans use social media, according to Pew Research and the 2020 Sprout Social Index. More than 1,000 social marketers were surveyed by Sprout Social for better understanding of goals, metrics and use of social media data in business. 

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Key findings

  1. Social media fuels bottom-line growth.
  • 89% of consumers say they will buy from a brand they follow on social media
  • 84% will choose that brand over a competitor
  • 75% of consumers say they'll increase their spending with brands they follow on social

2. Brand awareness remains a top priority

  • 69% of social marketers say increasing brand awareness is their number one goal for social media
  • 52% say increasing web traffic is their top priority
  • 46% say growing their audience is their number one goal

3. Marketers are not using social data to its full potential

  • While 56% of all social marketers use social data to better understand their target audience, there's a huge opportunity to do more with the data at their disposal. 
  • Only 23% of social marketers use social data to measure ROI
  • 16% use social data for competitive insights

4. Visual social platforms are popular with younger consumers 

  • 73% of members of Generation Z said Instagram
  • 65% said they plan to spend more time on YouTube

5. Creativity separates great brands from the rest 

  • 61% of consumers say brands that are best in class on social know how to engage their audience

Establishing your social foundation 

Sixty-nine percent of of social marketers say increasing brand awareness is their number one priority. 

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Marketer's primary goals for social media - 2020 sproutsocial Index

In addition to goals and metric, other factors that influence a marketer's approach to social include: 

  1. Performance to date (59%)
  2. Social goals and objectives (57%)
  3. Customer feedback (52%)
  4. Trending topics and interests (45%)
  5. Business goals and objectives (365)

The top three use of social data for marketers are: 1. Understanding their target audience, 2. develop creative content, and 3. Assess campaign performance. 

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How marketers use social data - 2020 Sprout Social Index

The top three challenges for social marketers are: 1. Identifying and reaching target audience, 2. Measuring ROI, and 3. Supporting overall business goals. The best path of measuring social ROI is integrating the social platform with your sales, customer service and marketing CRM platform. At Salesforce, we measure social ROI by connecting every social stakeholder touch-point with their sales, marketing, services and e-commerce journeys. 

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Social marketer's greatest challenges - 2020 Sprout Social Index

The top social platforms that marketers plan to leverage in the future are: 1. Facebook (74%), 2. Twitter (68%) and 3. Instagram (68%). 

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The platforms marketers and consumers plan to use more of - 2020 Sprout Social Index

Understanding consumer social behavior 

According to the index, 45% of consumers rely on suggestion in their feed and/or use social discovery tools to find new accounts. The other two ways consumer follow accounts is recommendations from family/friends and simply following brands that they admire. 

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How consumers find new accounts to like and follow - 2020 Sprout Social Index

The top 3 reasons consumers follow brands on social media are: 1. Learn about new products or services, 2. Stay up to date on company news, and 3. Learn about promotions and discounts. 

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Why consumers follow brands on social media - 2020 Sprout Social Index

What is interesting is why consumers unfollow brands on social media. The top two reasons are poor quality of product and poor customer service. In an experience led economy, the customer experience is as important as the product. Build a great product, and deliver poor customer service, and 1 out of 2 customers will unfollow your brand on social media. The second most important factor behind loss of interest is delivering irrelevant content. Speed, personalization, and intelligence are the three most important currencies in a hyper connected, knowledge sharing economy. You have to deliver personalized content and co-create value at the speed of need. Social marketing is not easy. You have to care more than your competitors in order to earn the right to your customer's attention and advocacy. 

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Why consumers unfollow brands on social media - 2020 Sprout Social Index

So what are the actions consumers take when they follow brands on social? The visit digital properties and they buy from the brand. They also recommend the brand. These are exactly the goals of any social marketer in terms of the benefits of building a community on social channels. 

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What consumers do when they follow a brand on social media - visit, buy and recommend to others

The top five types of content consumers want to engage with are: 1. Images, 2. Videos, 3. Text-based posts, 4. Stories and 5. Polls. I have written nearly 40 articles (text based posts and stories with videos and images) since March 2020 and have nearly doubled by social media impressions on Twitter to well over 115 million impressions by month. People do crave content that educates and inspires them to achieve more. 

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The type of content consumers want to engage with - 2020 Sprout Social Index

The competitive advantage 

What makes a brand's social best in class?  According to the report: "61% of consumers believe brands that engage with their audience are best in class. But while marketers prioritize memorable content (46%) and compelling storytelling (45%), consumers are focused on transparency (45%) and strong customer service (44%). If social marketers want to ensure their brands are considered best in class, they may want to be more transparent and responsive on social media."

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Best in class brands on social 

What makes a brand's social presence stand out? Marketers and consumers agree on the top three reasons: Creativity, memorable content, and impact. 

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What makes a brand's social presence stand out? 

The amount of customer engagement on social media varies by industry. That said, in a digital economy, now distributed and digital only due to the COVID-19 pandemic, every company, in every industry must increase their presence on social media. Here is a simple fact. The internet is people. People are becoming more social and digitally connected. Which means the internet is more social. 

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Average social media content engagement by industry 

The top five social response rate by industry includes: 1. Legal, 2. Real Estate, 3. Finance and Banking, 4. Recruiting and Staffing, and 5. Healthcare and Travel & Tourism. 

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Social media response rate by industry 

In order to businesses in all industries to improve their social media marketing capabilities, they need to invest in training and developing the key muscles and core competencies of social marketing. The report highlights the skills marketers need to achieve their social goals. Naturally, communication skills is at the top of the list, followed by content creation. 

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Skills marketers need to develop to reach social media and marketing goals - 2020 Sprout Social Index

The top five skills marketers are looking for when hiring are: 1. Reporting ability, 2. Prior social experience, 3. Communication, 4. Content strategy, and 5. Content creation. The report also highlights the resources marketers need to develop a greater business impact. 

In summary, in a digital economy, every business, in every industry, must invest in developing strong social networking capabilities. Social media may not create your company's culture, but it will reveal it. And in a digital economy, your culture is your brand. An investment in better and best use of social media will translate to improved sales, marketing, customer service, and e-commerce delivery and growth trajectory. To learn more about the 2020 Sprout Social Index you can visit here